September 6, 2007 (by Karl Anderson) - Maj. John "Snag" Mihaly, one of the F-117A Nighthawk pilots stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, gave a presentation on the coming F-22A Raptor during the monthly meeting of the Republican Women of Otero County Wednesday.
An F-4 Phantom from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and an F-22A Raptor pilot from Langley Air Force Base, Va., fly in formation over Tucson, Ariz.
Mihaly, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1989 and has also flown F-15s and F-16s, said the phasing out of the F-117 stemmed from Pres. George Bush's proposal in early 2006 to downsize the Air Force.
"We retired 10 Stealths in 2007," he said. "The remaining ones will leave in the first half of 2008."
Mihaly said an environment impact assessment has already been completed for the coming F-22A Raptor, the official replacement for the F-117, and that there were three areas of concern in that assessment.
"We are going to lose some personnel authorizations at the base," he said. "That means there will be some personnel leaving. The second impact is noise. The F-22s are more noisy than the Stealth. But this aircraft will be used more during the day, whereas the Stealth was used more for night flight."
Mihaly said there will be many more sonic booms heard by residents of Otero County once the F-22s are in place and breaking the sound barrier during their supersonic flights.
The third issue is with chaff and flares," he said. Chaff is material dispensed from aircraft that reflects a certain length of radar. Flares are ejected from aircraft to serve as decoys for heat-seeking missiles.
"Because of the altitude that aircraft are supposed to be at when ejecting the flares, I don't believe this will be a factor with respect to fire danger," he said.
Mihaly said the first two F-22s will arrive in June 2008, but those two will be used primarily as maintenance trainers. Overall, he felt the switch will be a positive one.
"This transition is a great benefit to the Air Force," he said.
The new construction and modifications at Holloman necessary for accommodation of the F-22s is fully funded.
"As of today, we have all the funding for all the new facilities," Mihaly said. "Contracts for this construction will be awarded in the next few months. The actual construction for the beddown will begin in 2008 and run into 2009."
Mihaly said because he will not be transitioning to fly the F-22, it has a personal meaning to him in having to say the F-117 is now in the process of becoming a part of the past. Mihaly also flew F-16s in Iraq.
"My three responsibilities now are the F-117A retirement, the F-22A beddown and total force integration," he said. "The total force integration is merging all operations between active military, National Guard and reserve units. We are going to be bringing Air National Guardsmen out here to fly the F-22s."
Mihaly believes the one weekend each month that members of the National Guard have to serve will have a positive economic impact on Alamogordo.
"They will be filling up hotels and motels when they come," he said. "And they will be eating in local restaurants."
One attendee at the meeting asked Mihaly if the F-22 will require more runway space than the F-117.
"The F-22 has much more power," he said. "It takes off in a shorter distance. The Stealth is more thrust-deficient and therefore requires more runway space that the F-22 will use for takeoffs."
Mihaly said the F-22s will be retiring to Tonopah, Nev., where they originated from.
Another attendee asked Mihaly how he feels the F-22 compares to the F-117 as a combat aircraft.
"After flying the F-16 in Iraq, I was ready for all comers," Mihaly said. "But when we flew against F-22s in training missions, we simply got slaughtered. We never saw them coming. When we later flew the Stealths on the same team with the F-22s, I had a good opportunity to evaluate them even more as members of the same team in training missions. I can tell you that I was jealous that I wasn't going to be flying the F-22 in the future."
Mihaly said there have already been some F-22s that have flown in over White Sands Missile Range during testing flights, but none have actually landed in the area.